NAMPA -- An Alabama man who was gunned down in broad daylight in the middle of a Nampa intersection was targeted after he flashed a large wad of cash during a heroin buy at a local drug house, prosecutors say.
The 25-year-old's killer, 31-year-old Jesus "AJ" Avila, was sentenced Thursday to 25 years to life in prison.
Prosecutor Dallin Creswell said in court that Avila and victim Ricardo Keith had never met before Keith and his girlfriend came to the home to buy drugs June 22, 2016.
Creswell described in court how the dealer's "eyes got big" when the victim pulled out an envelope full of money to pay for the heroin. After Keith and his girlfriend went into the bathroom to use the heroin, the seller told other people in the house - including Avila - how much money he was carrying.
Avila didn't hesitate.
He left the home while the victim was still getting high and drove to the intersection of Florida Avenue and Ivy Street, where he parked to wait for Keith's bright blue pickup truck.
When the victim and his girlfriend left the house and approached the intersection a short time later, Creswell said, Avila pulled his Oldsmobile Cutlass in front of the pickup to block them in.
The victim's girlfriend later told police that Avila was "talking fast, mean, intimidating and trying to be scary" as we walked up to the pickup and demanded the cash, Creswell said.
Within seconds, he had pulled out a handgun and shot Keith in the forehead.
Avila was gone by the time police arrived at the intersection to find Keith dead, but within days, detectives had tracked him to Yakima, Washington.
In a recording phone call from jail to his wife, Avila admitted to shooting Keith, telling her he had heard the man was carrying $10,000.
"I was tired of always f---- struggling on the streets," he said in the recording.
Creswell argued the murder was motivated by "pure greed," noting that Avila and Keith did not know each other and had no disagreements before the shooting. Likewise, he dismissed the contention that Keith was shot because he had underpaid for the drugs.
"This was not a crime of of passion, it was not a crime of revenge," the prosecutor said.
Avila's attorney, Ryan Dowell, called Keith's murder a "sad and unfortunate case," but stressed that Avila had taken accountability for his actions.
"If he could take it back, he would," Dowell said, adding that Avila was intoxicated and "wasn't necessarily in his right mind" when he killed Keith.
Avila also apologized in court to Keith's relatives, his own family, and the community.
"I take full responsibility for what I done and I'm ready to face the consequences," he told the judge.
As he handed down the life sentence, Judge George Southworth said Avila deserved to spend a long time behind bars.
"The defendant is clearly a very dangerous individual if he will follow a stranger, shoot him in the head and kill him just for money," he said.
Avila has two previous felony convictions, a dozen misdemeanor convictions, and was prohibited from owning a firearm. He had gotten off of parole the month before Keith's murder, prosecutors say.
Southworth noted that Avila won't get the chance to even be considered for parole until he is 56 years old.
"Mr. Avila, the choice you have made essentially took away the rest of your life," he said.